Kenya, S. Africa top continent in Covid 19 drug trials

Kenya and South Africa have the highest numbers of approved Covid 19 drug trials in the continent.

Of the 3,312 Covid 19 drug trials registered with the World Health Organisation, only a handful are happening in Africa with non-developed in the continent.

Of these South Africa leads with 14 vaccine trials, Kenya five, Uganda four and Egypt three. Others are Nigeria and Ghana with two trials each, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Swaziland, and Morocco have one each.

The 3,312 trials include 2,658 treatments, 343 preventives and 311 vaccines in various levels of development.

However some trials going on in Africa may be referenced with the sponsoring countries from Asia or the West, and hence their names miss out on the WHO platform.

But still it is a requirement in most countries even in Africa that any human drug clinical trials be registered and approved locally.

Data at Kenya’s Pharmacy and Poisons Board shows by the middle of August 2021, six Covid 19 vaccine trials had been approved.

These include: Oxford University’s AstraZeneca, Chinese Sf9, two vaccines by Sanofi, an mRNA vaccine sponsored by South Africa and the Moderna vaccine.

Experimental Covid 19 drugs approved for trials in Kenya have included chloroquine/hydroxychloroquine, monoclonal therapy from Sanofi, and ensovibep (MP0420). The latter is an experimental antibody treatment developed by the Swiss company Novartis.

Drugs that have already been tested among Kenya patients with mixed results include Remdesivir, Tocilizumab, blood plasma and dexamethasone. The latter is one of the most used to treat Covid 19 patients in local hospitals.

The Moderna vaccine study (CoVPN 3008), will be carried out in Kisumu by Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) with plans to recruit 300 participants.

“We aim to test the safety and efficacy of Moderna’s two-dose mRNA vaccine in 14,000 participants recruited from eight African countries,” says the study protocol.

The study will be testing efficacy and safety in an African population, and performance against emerging variants.

Participants will be over age 40 years with at least one comorbidity associated with severe Ccovid-19, or over 18 years of age and pregnant or over 18 years of age and HIV-infected.

Reports that the Covid 19 vaccines may wane after 6-8 months have seen a resurgence of interest in developing effective preventives and curatives.

The  Swiss based Drugs for Neglected  Diseases Initiative (DNDi) in their study ANTICOV will be testing several drugs including  a combination of the  anti-parasitic  nitazoxanide and ciclesonide. The study is  being rolled out in 13 African countries including Kenya.

Kenya has also approved the US Government supported Adapt Out COVID study which gives researchers an open book to test any promising drugs against the disease as they become available.

“The platform will allow investigational agents to be added and dropped during the course of the study as new agents become available,” says Kenya’s pharmacy board.

Initial drugs in this study are relatively new antibody therapies which include: Bamlanivimab by Eli Lilly pharmaceutical company of US, BRII-196 and BRII-198 by Brii Biosciences of China, SAB-185 by SAB Biotherapeutics of US and AstraZeneca’s cilgavimab and tixagevimab.

The latest addition is the antibody treatment ensovibep (MP0420) developed by the Swiss company Novartis.

In Kenya this study called EMPATHY Trial will be carried out by Kemri in Nairobi, Kisumu and Kericho in collaboration with the US Army Medical Research Directorate-Kenya. It will also be tested at Kenyatta University Teaching Hospital in Nairobi.

Kemri, a regulator for Covid 19 diagnostics has also been involved in the field testing of various antigen kits with published results showing all to have performed exceptionally well.

Three of the kits have been tested separately with Mt Kenya University, at Dadaab refugee and recently with Aga Khan University Hospital in Kisumu.

All these drugs, vaccines and devices, apart from a ventilator tested at Kenyatta University Referral Hospital, are imports from US, Europe, China and India.

By Gatonye Gathura

About Gatonye Gathura 126 Articles
Science Journalist

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